Subject: RI-E.Timor CTF Updates - The silence of the dead demands the voice
of an apology
- The Age: The silence of the dead demands the voice of an apology
- CT: E Timor report a denial of justice
- AFP: UN hopes Timor atrocities report can lead to justice
- The Australian: Jakarta `regrets' E Timor atrocities
- Transcript: Indonesia remorseful over East Timor riots
The Age (Melbourne, Australia) Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The silence of the dead demands the voice of an apology
IN 2000, the then Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid, performed one of the most difficult acts a nation's leader can perform. He apologised to the victims, both dead and maimed, of his country's violent actions. Mr Wahid went to the Santa Cruz cemetery in East Timor where in 1991 dozens of people were massacred and said: "I would like to apologise for the things that have happened in the past. To the victims or the families of Santa Cruz and those friends who are buried in the military cemetery - these are the victims of circumstances we didn't want."
Although he was not leader in 1991, Mr Wahid accepted that as leader he had a responsibility for his country's past deeds. Two recent examples of this ethic have been the German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressing the Israeli Parliament in March of her country's "historic responsibility" to the victims of the Holocaust; the second was the apology of Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to his country's indigenous population for past government policy. There was also, of course, Kevin Rudd's apology to the stolen generation.
Indonesia's responsibility for its actions, and its obligation to acknowledge them, have been brought into focus this past week with news of the report by the Commission of Truth and Friendship into the 1999 atrocities that occurred during the period of East Timor's vote for independence. Yesterday in Bali, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and East Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta officially accepted the report. However, in doing so, Yudhoyono only expressed regret at his country's involvement. An apology was not mentioned. This is not good enough. It is an elemental link in the chain that to accept responsibility for an act of violence carries with it the duty to say sorry for that action. In this case, there were many acts and they were of the most heinous kind.
The commission's report details a co-ordinated campaign by Indonesia of violence, including massacre, rape and torture, against Timorese civilians. It is estimated that about 1500 died. The Indonesian Government's stance was foreshadowed on Monday when Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono said: "There will be no apology; it is only about remorse, which is deep regret by both parties, from both governments, both presidents for their people." Given that the report recommends an apology, this attitude is regrettable. Indonesia has indicated it recognises its "moral obligation", yet it seems that obligation only goes so far. Expressing remorse does not bring closure in the same way or with the same commitment that an apology does.
The East Timorese in 1999 were witnesses to one of the historic moments of a people: the birth of a nation. It was to be their fate that its creation came through violent opposition. The report released yesterday, and which the The Age reported exclusively last Saturday, found that Indonesia's police, army and civilian government officials provided funds, armed and co-ordinated militias opposed to independence. Indonesia bore "institutional responsibility" for the deaths of up to 1500 people, and the rape, torture, illegal detention and deportations. The report, which was commissioned by both governments to try to thwart a UN investigation into the events of 1999, did find that both sides committed offences, but that Indonesia was the prime agent of the violence.
Recognising those responsible, and apologising, however, is only one side of the coin. The other is bringing the perpetrators of the violence to justice. It is here that a resolution of the past faces a troubled future. The report concedes that its findings have "no judicial or quasi-judicial powers". In other words, it cannot compel prosecutions despite finding that crimes against humanity had occurred. In fact, not one person is serving time in jail for any offence that occurred in 1999. In April this year, Eurico Guterres, a militia leader, was freed from jail after his conviction was overturned.
Dr Yudhoyono does himself no services by trying to play down his country's role in the human rights abuses. In 1999, he was a general based in Jakarta, and was reported to have said at the time that he was worried international opinion might view events in East Timor as a "great human tragedy . . . when in reality it is not". Australia has also done itself no services in the past by trading speaking out against abuses for good relations with Jakarta.
The findings of the Truth and Friendship Commission clearly have shown Dr Yudhoyono's perceptions of reality to be false. The 1500 victims of 1999 cannot speak for themselves. It behoves the leader of the state that led to their deaths to speak to them, and to say sorry.
The Canberra Times Wednesday, July 16, 2008
E Timor report a denial of justice
The issuing yesterday of a report prepared by the joint Indonesia-East Timor Commission of Truth and Friendship marks probably the last official chapter in the investigation of atrocities committed by Indonesian troops after the UN-sponsored vote of self-determination in East Timor in 1999.
Though the report has found that Indonesian soldiers, police and government officials (in effect the Indonesian state apparatus) were involved in an ''organised campaign of violence'', not a single senior official has been identified as bearing any responsibility for the murder, torture, rape and displacement of thousands of East Timorese.
But conducting investigations that might have led to the prosecution of senior individuals in the Indonesian Government or military was never part of the commission's brief. It would not have been established with the imprimatur of the Indonesian Government otherwise.
East Timor's Government has not sought to press the issue of war crimes prosecutions, either, preferring reconciliation with its powerful neighbour.
Clearly, East Timor has a lot riding on the maintenance of good relations with Indonesia, but its pragmatism has dismayed ordinary East Timorese (and senior officials within the country's influential Catholic Church, who regard it as a denial of justice for those people whose human rights were violated by the Indonesian military and its militia allies nine years ago and in other episodes stretching back over 24 years of Indonesian rule.
And there are human rights activists around the world who argue that East Timor and Indonesia have put their national interests ahead of universal principles of justice. Though the commission's findings will not lead to any prosecutions, the charges of institutional responsibility levelled at the Indonesian state are damning.
About 1400 people are thought to have died in the violence of 1999, with another 250,000 people forced into exile. The United Nations, 13 of whose workers were killed in the violence, passed a Security Council resolution in the same year authorising the establishment of a serious crimes unit in Dili to try those accuse of war crimes. Nearly 400 people were indicted but fewer than a hundred were convicted almost all of them militiamen of no particular authority.
Many of those indicted by the East Timorese court were never brought before the court because they had fled to Indonesia, where the authorities refused to extradite them for trial. Under the same UN resolution, Indonesia was required to try its own citizens. Not surprisingly, it showed little enthusiasm, with a special court acquitting all but one of the 16 people charged with committing atrocities against East Timorese civilians.
Doubts about the determination and willingness of both Indonesia and East Timor to bring to justice those responsible for the 1999 violence led the UN to form a Commission of Experts to review the prosecution process in 2005. The creation of the Commission of Truth and Friendship later that year was seen by many people as a blatant attempt by both countries to pre-empt the UN's efforts to pursue high-ranking suspects. The UN's failure to follow through on its review suggests those critics were right though, of course, an international tribunal could still conceivably be established at some point.
Indeed, the nebulous aspects of the Truth and Friendship Commission's report may well result in renewed calls for action by the UN or, failing that, the International Criminal Court, which sought this week an arrest warrant for Sudan's President Oman Hassan al- Bashir on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
The Indonesian Government's refusal to extradite any civil or military official (serving or otherwise) to face trial on charges of war crimes, let alone cooperate with any official international investigation of its past activities in East Timor, can be relied on if the UN does reopen investigations into why not one senior Indonesian figure has been found guilty of war crimes thus far. The only reason it may not is out of respect for the East Timorese Government's desire to let bygones be bygones.
Reconciliation, compassion and forgiveness have become prized by East Timor's leadership since 1999 (and not just in its relations with Indonesia) and, while this might paper over uncomfortable facts, it does not always guarantee that long-running tensions or bitterness will be ameliorated as was demonstrated when President Jose Ramos Horta almost lost his life in February during protracted negotiations for an amnesty with disaffected former members of East Timor's security forces.
While East Timor's wish to draw a line under the the past is understandable, the commission's report denies basic justice to thousands of East Timorese. Nor, despite the commission's call for a ''transformation'' of Indonesian military doctrine, are there any guarantees there will be no repetition of 1999's violence elsewhere in the archipelago.
UN hopes Timor atrocities report can lead to justice
NEW YORK, July 156 (AFP) -- UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that the early release of a report blaming Indonesia for crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999 would mark the first step toward achieving justice and reconciliation.
A UN statement said Ban looked forward to "the early public release" of the final report of the Commission of Truth and Friendship to the presidents of Indonesia and East Timor.
The UN secretary general, who is currently on a visit to Germany, "hopes that this process will be the first step towards achieving justice and reconciliation."
Ban encourages the governments of Indonesia and Timor-Leste to "take concrete steps to ensure full accountability, to end impunity and to provide reparations to victims in accordance with international human rights standards and principles," the UN statement said.
Earlier Tuesday, Indonesia expressed regret for violence in East Timor in 1999 after accepting the report, but rejected calls for an international tribunal.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised to implement the recommendations made by the truth commission in its report on the months of violence, including murders and rapes, surrounding East Timor's independence vote.
Ban meanwhile reiterated the United Nations' readiness "to extend its technical assistance in the implementation of such measures."
An estimated 1,400 people were killed when local militias backed by the Indonesian military rampaged through East Timor as the then-province voted to break away from Indonesia, which invaded in 1975.
Until now Indonesia has always blamed the local militias, and no Indonesian commander or civilian leader has ever been successfully prosecuted.
The Australian Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Jakarta `regrets' E Timor atrocities
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta correspondent
INDONESIAN President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has expressed ``deep regret'' for his military's 1999 rampage in East Timor, in which at least 1400 people died.
It was the first time Indonesia had accepted any direct responsibility for the campaign of violence, which followed a referendum supporting independence from Jakarta.
At the handover of a report entitled From Remembering Comes Hope, Dr Yudhoyono's East Timorese counterpart, Jose Ramos Horta, yesterday saluted those who fell during 25 years of resistance to occupation.
``They all share the same sacred soil; I bow to them all -- East Timorese and Indonesians -- and pray for their souls.''
Mr Ramos Horta told Dr Yudhoyono in Bali: ``Our (two nations') past is intertwined with our present, and can lead to a more prosperous future.''
A diplomatic Mr Ramos Horta referred to the Indonesian military's 1999 withdrawal from East Timor -- when some of the worst human rights violations occurred -- as ``not (a defeat): they left in an act of statesmanship that was extremely difficult for such a proud military''.
Indonesia had until that point occupied East Timor militarily, after invading in 1975.
Dr Yudhoyono was not expected to make a full apology for the terror campaign of 1999, and his comments on the Truth and Friendship Commission's report indicated Indonesia believed it had put the matter behind it.
``We extend our deep regrets over what happened in the past, which took a toll on both property and lives,'' he said, but made clear he simply saw the investigation as a ``reference point'' for ensuring future peace.
``We must learn from what happened to find out the facts over who has done what to whom, and who must be held responsible.''
But he added: ``We cannot move forward and reach our dreams if we always focus our attention on the past,'' a sign Indonesia wants to draw a line under the matter despite calls for an international tribunal.
The report was commissioned three years ago in a move that even Indonesian Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono admitted was ``political''.
``There is no intention on either side of taking the matter to a Human Rights Court,'' Dr Juwono said on Monday.
The terms of reference prohibited it from attributing individual responsibility for criminal acts -- a weakness a key coalition of Indonesian, East Timorese, British, US and Australian groups has slammed. The coalition argued the Indonesian military had been found ``institutionally'' responsible for the violence but had yet to introduce any substantial reform.
The report proposed institutional reform but it remained unclear how this should happen.
``The military has made little progress in accepting civilian control, divesting of its massive empire of legal and illegal businesses, or holding its members accountable for human rights violations,'' the coalition said.
The coalition's members include the most significant advocates for East Timor justice, including the New York-based International Centre for Transitional Justice, Indonesia's Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence, British ex-Indonesian political prisoners rights group TAPOL and the Australian-based Coalition for Transitional Justice in East Timor.
It called for individual criminal prosecutions. ``Some of those implicated in the violence remain in positions of influence in Indonesia, either within the military or as retired civilians active in politics,'' the coalition said.
Two key players in this regard are former Indonesian military chief Wiranto and former special forces head Prabowo Subianto, who are expected to run for president in Indonesia's general elections next year.
The only person ever jailed over the violence, militia leader Eurico Guterres, was cleared of involvement by Indonesia's Supreme Court in April. An estimated 1400 people were killed when local militias backed by the Indonesian military rampaged through East Timor as the then-province voted to break away from Indonesia.
Until now Indonesia has always blamed the local militias, and no Indonesian commander or civilian leader has ever been successfully prosecuted.
``It's hoped that the problem of human rights violations prior to and during the referendum has been resolved and does not need to be followed up by legal processes,'' Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said. The handover of the report coincides with controversy surrounding Mr Ramos Horta's dealings with the violence that beset his nation in early 2006, when internal political jockeying led to the deaths of dozens of people and the displacement of tens of thousands.
Draft legislation set to be considered in East Timor's parliament would give alleged perpetrators of violence the opportunity to avoid prosecution in return for public apologies. Critics said Mr Ramos Horta's proposal would further entrench the culture of impunity promoted by yesterday's report.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation July 15, 2008 -transcripts-
Indonesia remorseful over East Timor riots
MARK COLVIN: Indonesia has accepted that its own officials, military and police, funded, armed and collaborated with the violent anti-independence militias that ran riot in East Timor eight years ago.
Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has expressed his "deepest remorse" to those who lost their lives and property.
His East Timorese counterpart Jose Ramos-Horta also joined him in Bali to accept the final report of their nations' Commission for Truth and Friendship.
Both leaders signed a joint statement in Bali expressing "remorse to all those who suffered immeasurable pain and physical and psychological wounds" due to human rights violations in 1999.
Indonesia correspondent, Geoff Thompson, reports from Nusa Dua in Bali.
GEOFF THOMPSON: Until very, very recently, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was among the majority of Indonesian officials who denied the institutional involvement of the Indonesian state, the military and the police in the coordinated militia campaign to terrorise East Timor's people enough to ensure a vote against independence in 1999. Today in Bali, that official position changed forever.
(Sound of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono speaking)
Standing before East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, President Yudhoyono turned a new page in Indonesia's official history.
"Often truth can only be established," he said, "after systematic investigation. Without the substantial truth of such a process, we cannot produce closure. Such closure is crucial," he said. "We cannot move on if we remain focused on the past, but we can't just bury the past unceremoniously. The lies about what happened must be taken out of the process before rehabilitation can operate effectively," he said.
The final report of the two nations' Commission for Truth and Friendship found that both countries bore the burden of institutional responsibility for the gross human rights violations which left up to 1500 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced in 1999.
But President Yudhoyono stopped short of an apology. Instead he expressed his deepest remorse for what happened that led to the victims and the loss of property.
"Let us remember those who fell in those dark days of our past," he said. "By remembering them," he went on, "let us resolve that what befell them shall not happen again in our lives to any human in the future."
Clearly guided by a spirit of reconciliation, East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta said that the tragic events of 1999 were known to all and did not need to be elaborated.
President Horta said that the report made it clear that with the history of the Indonesian military in East Timor it was unrealistic to expect the military to maintain security without emotion. Then he went even further and praised the TNI.
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: The Indonesian army was not defeated in Timor-Leste. Let no-one harbour such illusions. They obeyed their orders from their leaders and complied with the verdict of the people of Timor-Leste to leave the country.
This was an act of statesmanship, a very painful one for a very proud army and a very proud country.
GEOFF THOMPSON: An international coalition of human rights groups focused on East Timor from Europe, the US, East Timor and Indonesia, have criticised the commission and the report, effectively saying that the work was meaningless without pursuing the prosecutions of those behind 1999's systematic campaign of violence and without reforming a largely unreformed Indonesian military.
After the handover of the report and the speeches, I asked Indonesia's Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono whether the truth was too much for many in Indonesia's military to accept.
JUWONO SUDARSONO: No, I've talked to most of the senior military officers, retired as well as active. They all accept the wording of the institutional responsibility.
GEOFF THOMPSON: But it is a breakthrough; we've never had an admission, an official admission or acceptance by Indonesia of anything like this before.
JUWONO SUDARSONO: I think it's a credit to the President because he was a military officer, he served in East Timor and he was chief of the territorial staff. So I think it's a great credit for him.
GEOFF THOMPSON: And in terms of prosecutions, is that door closed or is it still possible?
JUWONO SUDARSONO: One of the recommendations is that both sides must try and find ways to help resolve the wounds affecting families of the victims. That's not in a prosecutor sense but in a monetary sense, I think that's the key word.
GEOFF THOMPSON: In 1999, Indonesia's current presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal had the unenviable job of selling the official fiction of what was happening in East Timor to the international media.
On the sidelines today, I asked whether he was relieved that he no longer had to be involved in selling a lie. He laughed and said, "I'm very glad."
In Nusa Dua, Bali, this is Geoff Thompson for PM.